Greenwich Avenue declares, Let there be art

Art to the Avenue was a festive event for artists of all kinds as, above, Tarryl Gabel painted outside of Smart Kids. — John Ferris Robben photo

Art to the Avenue was a festive event for artists of all kinds as, above, Tarryl Gabel painted outside of Smart Kids.
— John Ferris Robben photo

Art came to Greenwich Avenue last week and it won’t be going anywhere for a while.

For the annual Art to the Avenue festivities last Thursday, Greenwich Avenue was transformed into an outdoor art gallery, with local artists displaying their works, live music, street performers, and receptions in many of the best known businesses. This was all done to celebrate the annual mix of art and business that will see art on display in the front windows of Avenue businesses and for sale through May 27.

So even if you missed last Thursday’s launch party, there are still plenty of chances to scope out what the best local artists have brought to the town’s main street of the Central Business District.

“The public has a chance to see and enjoy an enormous range of art,” Barbara Collier, president of the Greenwich Arts Council’s board of directors, said at last Thursday’s launch. “There’s every style, dimension and size point. At the same time it’s helping to highlight Greenwich retailers who are supporters of the arts. This is a real celebration.”

Art, from paintings to sculptures to mixed media to beyond, will be displayed in stores up and down Greenwich Avenue and is available for purchase through May 27. And even when a piece has been purchased, it won’t disappear from the store. It will be up for viewing throughout the month before making its way to its new home.

“This is an event that benefits both the artists and the businesses,” Ms. Collier said to the Post. “It gives the artists great exposure in the town. For a month, their work is being displayed for everyone to see, not just Greenwich people, and as far as the business community you can see the impact. People come here to town specifically for this event and it brings in a lot of people who want to come in and see the art and look around the stores. I think it also makes the businesses feel connected to the community.”

This is just as the Greenwich Arts Council intended when it created Art to the Avenue 16 years ago to bring together art and business in town. It’s only grown since then, and Ms. Collier told the Post last Thursday that there was a heavy demand from businesses to be a part of the festivities. Earlier this year, the council sponsored an event for business owners and artists to meet and decide which artists would go in which stores, and Ms. Collier said a lot of businesses were eager to get a jump by coming as early as possible to get the best choices.

“A lot of the retailers know these artists and there is a specific demand for them,” Ms. Collier said. “I think the business community has really embraced this. Obviously the Avenue has changed enormously over the years, but this has really grown in its popularity, and we hope the new businesses will find this is successful for them.”

According to Ms. Collier, 120 stores, businesses and banks are participating this year, making room for approximately 140 artists.

Thursday night was also a chance for the town to pay tribute to one of its trailblazers. First Selectman Peter Tesei honored former First Selectman Ruth Sims by reading a proclamation and dedicating a beech tree in the Greenwich Common across the street from the Arts Council headquarters in her memory. Ms. Sims, the first female first selectman in town history as well as the first to hold the position full-time, died last year, and Mr. Tesei spoke fondly of her accomplishments.

“Ruth was someone who governed in a non-partisan fashion, and she looked to advance the interests of the town and see where the town could develop and prosper,” Mr. Tesei said outside the Arts Council’s office. “We’re here today to salute the Greenwich Arts Council, and that was part of the vision she held. At the same time she also had the vision to preserve the landscape, and across the way we have today what is known as the Greenwich Common but was referred to back during her administration as the parkland or the open space. She was very concerned about discussions of developing that area for alternate purposes and took the bold step of declaring it as parkland.”

Selectman David Theis showed off a plaque that will soon be permanently affixed to the tree so, Mr. Tesei said, it could “stand tall and proud to forever recognize her and her contributions.” A copy of the plaque will also be presented to Ms. Sims’ family.

Ms. Sims’ efforts getting the building used currently by the Arts Council and the Greenwich Senior Center was also remembered, and Ms. Collier called her the “driving force” behind getting the space, which was once used as Town Hall, set aside for them.

Mr. Tesei thanked everyone for coming out to support Art to the Avenue. In his proclamation, Mr. Tesei said the event fulfilled “an important role in our community by providing venues for local artists to express their creativity and exhibit their work for public view” and declared that May would officially be the Greenwich Arts Council’s Art to the Avenue Month.

“Clearly the arts and its presence in a community will ensure its vibrancy both visually and musically,” Mr. Tesei said.

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